Testimony to Portland City Council – Feb 17, 2010
I’m Mary Vogel from PlanGreen, a WBE consulting business based in downtown Portland that helps sustainability leaders in business and government put ecosystem services into their land development plans to achieve prosperity in a new era.
In Forbes’ Nov 2009 ranking of most toxic U.S. cities, the Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton metro area ended up 10th—higher in toxicity than Rust Belt metropolitan areas like Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. The Willamette River has also been ranked as one of the most polluted rivers in the west.
I do not need to tell you that this is not good for business as global enterprise moves towards measures of sustainability as a fundamental decision-making tool. I believe the River Plan will help us counteract these rankings and should be implemented post haste.
Economic efficiency is also big in the business decision toolbox! I want to remind the businesses here tonight looking at bottom line that Portland’s most recent pre-design for green street projects identify design and construction savings of 20 – 63% over traditional storm sewer systems—and these savings are calculated without accounting for ecosystem services benefits.
Toyota found that its restoration of habitat along the river had unanticipated consequences that were a huge positive for its business. The mother Mallard who used the landscaped area at the factory’s front door to hatch and raise her young ducklings became a mascot for the factory workers, improving worker productivity and their interest in coming to work everyday. They loved to watch her lay her eggs, incubate and hatch them, then parade her fluffy entourage back and forth to the river several times a day.
We all know that employees are generally the biggest expense of industry. If a one-time expense to restore some natural area to a site leads to greater worker satisfaction and productivity, then that expense is repaid quickly and in spades. In fact, its one of the best investments a business could make!
North Reach businesses should see the River Plan as part of their path towards driving the new, more resource efficient, more sustainable economy—and embrace it. It will be good for business!